I have trouble growing parsnips. Well, not so much growing them, because they’re one of the vegetables that mostly grow themselves. The problem is, I often forget to sow them. I think it has to do with the fact that in parsnips the moment of sowing and the moment of harvesting are about as much apart as can be in annual vegetables.
With most vegetables, it would not be such a problem – you would just say to yourself: “Oh well, there’s always next year!” Cabbage seed, for example, will still have a pretty good germination rate five years on. But parsnip seed does not keep, last years’ seeds will be no good and you’ll have to buy seeds again and again, until one beautiful spring day you will remember to sow parsnips on time, like a I did (yes!) this year. I kept the bed more or less weedfree in the beginning and then forgot about it. But a few weeks ago (more than 7 months after sowing) I went to have a look and there were harvestable parsnips! Lots of them, even.
All the more welcome because most other vegetables are finished by now. I did not grow as many winter veg as I normally do, because I learnt in May that we’d have to leave our allotment. But that was after I had sown my parsnips, so now we sneak back with a trowel to harvest them.
And then we make parsnip soup. With spices. Because it’s cold around here. And this soup is just the thing to have for dinner after an afternoon spent planting tulips bulbs and garlic with freezing fingers.
Parsnips, like most root vegetables are pretty sweet, and combining them with spices works beautifully. And if you still have some cranberry sauce left, put a dollop in each plate and the humble parsnip will reach sophistication.
Spiced parsnip soup
Adapted from various sources: N. Slater: Tender and S.Raven: Garden Cookbook
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
500 g ( a little over 1 pound) parsnips, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, but left whole
1 chilli pepper
½ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp flour
750 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Cranberry sauce (optional)
In a large heavy-bottom pan, melt the oil and butter. Add the onion and sweat until it becomes translucent. Add the parsnip and garlic. Cook over low heat until the onion has coloured slightly and the parsnips are slightly browned. Do not stir too much, to encourage the slight caramelization of the parsnips, which is important for the overall taste. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir in the chilli and the turmeric, than cook for about a minute before adding the stock and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and let simmer until the parsnips are soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup, either in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Check fo seasonings.
Serve with a swirl of yoghurt. And if you happen to have a little cranberry sauce left, you can put a dollop in each bowl, it is a wonderful contrast to this sweetness of parsnips.